These dogs aren’t as big as I thought!  Why is that?

When people think of sled dogs, many think of bigger dogs such as Malamutes. The Alaskan Husky, which is the predominant breed you’ll see here at the UP200 and Midnight Run, isn’t actually a breed but rather a mix of many breeds, resulting in a lean, fast dog with an intense desire to run and pull.  Rarely do Alaskan Huskies weigh more than 55 pounds.  But just watch them go!

Isn’t mushing unfair to the dogs?

On the contrary, sled dogs love the snow, they love to work, and if you watch the start of any part of the race, you will see how eager they are to get out on the trail!  Mushers give their dogs the best of care.  A musher will not run a dog if it becomes ill or injured. You might even see a team arrive with a dog or two “in the basket”, that is, riding on the sled.

The UP 200 and Midnight Run race rules were established with the safety and health of the dogs in mind.  Veterinarians examine the dogs three times during the race.  Mushers must carry certain equipment (see below) to ensure that they can care for their dogs on the trail.  Remember, every dog in this race has been lovingly raised and carefully trained.  Pulling a sled isn’t work to a sled dog – it’s FUN!

What’s a “bag check”?

Mushers are required to carry certain equipment with them on the trail to make sure they can care for themselves and their dogs.  This equipment includes:

  • Two complete working headlamps.
  • A sleeping bag with winter or arctic rating.
  • One set of booties per dog.
  • One pound of food per dog in team leaving each checkpoint.
  • One day’s ration of food for the musher leaving each checkpoint.
  • Knife
  • Snowshoes
  • Ax (minimum size 22 inches)
  • First aid kit (for musher and dogs) including Ace bandages and pressure dressings for severe bleeding
  • A cable cutter that will cut the cable gangline
  • Promotional materials, as determined by the UPSDA
  • Compass
  • Waterproof matches or a lighter
  • Musher’s veterinary log book
  • UP200 MUSHERS ONLY: One operational cooker and pot capable of boiling at least 2 (two) gallons of  water
  • UP200 MUSHERS ONLY: An adequate amount of fuel to boil two gallons of water
  • A red blinking light on the lead dog is optional but strongly recommended.

How long do mushers stay at each checkpoint?

The mushers have a great deal of leeway in their race strategy.  Each team in the UP200 must have a total of sixteen hours of layover time, but the mushers can decide how much of it to use at each checkpoint. In 2015, a mandatory 5-hour layover will be required at the Wetmore Checkpoint on the upbound run to Grand Marais. Usually, a large chunk of time will be taken at Grand Marais since it’s the halfway point.  Midnight Run mushers have a mandatory 5-1/2 hour layover at the Chatham checkpoint.

Where is the best place to see the dogs?

It depends.  The UP200 nighttime start in Marquette is exciting, but the crowds will be large.  Lakenen Land Sculpture Park on M 28 and the checkpoint at Wetmore (upbound and downbound) offer great viewing of the mushers, as does Prince of Peace Church in Harvey (the race goes right by there).  If you’d like an up-close view of the teams, head for Grand Marais on Saturday morning, the halfway point for the UP200.  Most of the teams will take a long layover here during the day on Saturday.

The Midnight Run checkpoint is at Chatham at the MSU Extension facility, and the public can stop there to see the teams.  The Midnight Run finish is in Marquette at the Lower Harbor Park.  Race organizers estimate the teams will start arriving between 8am and 10am on Saturday.